The Microsoft Store, an online source for Windows apps and other apps, announced a new policy on July 16 that forbid developers from selling open-source apps that are otherwise available for free and from distributing browser apps that use Apple's WebKit engine. But the tech major has now reportedly delayed the enforcement after it received criticism by the developer community.
Microsoft said that the new policy was intended to improve the Microsoft Store experience. For example, the policy has a section forbidding apps that "provide content related to information, news, or current events in the real world from disseminating misinformation."
However, developers appear to be more concerned about Microsoft's decision to limit how apps based on open-source software can be sold. They believe, the revised rules limit what they can do with open-source software. For example, the policy contains a prohibition on Microsoft Store apps using Apple's WebKit browser engine. In fact, any web browser engine that isn't Chromium, Gecko, or EdgeHTML would be banned, so it's not just WebKit verboten.
The policy change arrives amid criticism of Microsoft following the commercial availability of GitHub Copilot, a subscription-based AI code suggestion tool trained on open-source code. The Software Freedom Conservancy, an open-source advocacy group, last week accused Microsoft of profiting from open-source without providing clarity about whether Copilot complies with licensing terms and urges open-source developers to drop GitHub.
Hayden Barnes, senior engineering manager SUSE Rancher, expressed concern that the new rules unreasonably limit the financial options available to open-source developers.
"I am disappointed by the Microsoft Store policy change that prohibits selling open-source software," he said earlier this week in a Twitter post. "The Store provides independent open-source developers an opportunity to create sustainable projects by charging a reasonable amount there."
In response, Sardo, who heads the Microsoft Store, insisted Microsoft is just trying to prevent abusive store listings, like app clones.
"We absolutely want to support developers distributing successful OSS apps," he said in a Twitter post. “The goal of this policy is to protect customers from misleading listings,” he said.
Nonetheless, he clarified via Twitter, "In listening to [the] dev community, we got feedback it could be perceived differently than intended. We'll delay enforcement of that policy until we clarify the intent. Stay tuned."